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You Are What You Think You Are

You are what you think you are! As much as I have used this expression in my lectures and writings, I wonder just how many people really understand what it means.

After one of my lectures on this subject, a woman approached me with an accusation.

“Do you think I am poor because I want to be? Do you think I am unhappy because I want to be?” she demanded sternly.

Naturally no one wants to be poor or unhappy; but the fact still remains that we are what we think we are. It is so important that you fully comprehend the significance of this statement that an entire chapter will be devoted to it. If you think as you read, you’ll see a different you when you look into your mirror.

“I’m not a bit musical,” you’ll hear from the one who has not taken up music.

“I’m not at all handy with tools,” the man who has done nothing in the field of crafts will say.

“I’m not artistic”; “I’m not good at writing”; are statements often heard.

Then there are those who will attempt to describe their emotions: “I’m very easy going,” one will say, while another will declare: “No one can put anything over on me.”

You are what you think you are! Our bodies do not reflect talent, or the lack of it.

If a man is not musical, it is not because there is some physical characteristic which makes him musical, or otherwise.

If one is awkward with tools, the body has nothing to do with it.

What we are is a reflection of the mental image we have been holding of ourselves.

Before any of you come forward with an exception, let me say that in talking about various talents and traits of character, I am referring to the normal individual. Naturally a one-legged man could not win a foot race, no matter what kind of mental pictures he might hold. A person with deformed hands could not excel as a pianist. A sightless person could not win fame as an artist.

What kind of mental picture does the successful business executive hold of himself? Does he see himself as a poor businessman? Not by a jug full! He has reached the heights in his field because he saw himself as a success.

When I had a house designed, I explained to the architect the type of structure I wanted. He reflected a moment, then said: “I think I know just what you want.” Did that architect have faith in his ability? Or did he see himself as a poor architect?

This question is actually silly, because the answer is so obvious.

Here is some extremely good news! If there is something you have always wanted to do, but felt you couldn’t, all you have to do is to gain an awareness that you can do it, and you’ll have no difficulty in doing it.

I tried an experiment in my own household to prove the truth of this assertion.

My precious wife—the girl to whom this book is dedicated— had always maintained that she was not a bit artistic. She had never tried to draw or paint a picture, because she thought she couldn’t do so.

I started on a subtle campaign to establish in her mind an awareness that she could easily become an artist. In the selection of wearing apparel, I would compliment her on her taste in color—how well all her garments harmonized with each other— then drop a gentle hint that she would make a good artist.

When taking pictures she would be complimented on how well she placed her subjects to get the best balance. This, of course, all added to the thought that she possessed artistic ability.

At Christmas, my gift to her was a complete outfit for painting and drawing. There were sets of oil colors, crayons for pastel work, pencils of all degrees of hardness. The outfit included canvases, sketching pads, easel, etc. From this complete set of materials, she could choose the medium in which she would like to work.

The first attempt was a 14 x 20-inch oil painting of the famous wind-blown cypress tree at Monterey, California. Without any training whatsoever, she did exceedingly well with this first canvas. Throughout our home there are many evidences of the artistic skill developed after she became aware that she had artistic ability.

The head of a large advertising agency tells how he became identified with advertising. In his late teens, he had felt he would like to be an engineer. In fact, in school, he had been preparing himself for that field. This man had a phonograph and a quantity of records he wanted to sell. He selected the names of a few friends who might be interested, and he wrote letters offering his musical outfit. One man, receiving the letter, bought the machine and records and in his reply complimented the seller on the fine letter he wrote, saying that he should go into the advertising business because he had the faculty of presenting an offer in such a convincing manner.

As a pebble dropped in a pool causes the ripples to go to the furthermost edge, this thought regarding an advertising career, dropped in the mind of this young man, kept growing and growing until he could not see himself as anything else but an advertising man. In other words, as soon as he began thinking of himself as an advertising man, he became one.

At a club meeting, a member was unexpectedly called upon to give a talk, telling about the trip he had recently taken. This man had never done any public speaking and was quite ill at ease in giving his talk. After the meeting was over, one of the members told the speaker that he should take up public speaking because he organized his talk in such logical sequence. Making speeches was the last thing that had ever entered this man’s mind, that is, until this suggestion was made to him. He began thinking of himself as a good speaker, and now, he is constantly being called upon to give talks.


Most people have so thoroughly accepted themselves as they are, they give little or no thought as to how they got that way. In a large majority of cases, we are as we are owing to childhood influences. Most of the fears, phobias, inhibitions and complexes we carry through life were established in our minds when we were children.

Let us consider timidity, for example. Very few people ever become timid as adults. It is the suggestions regarding timidity which are given to us while very young which we enlarge upon and carry through life.

A mother might wish to show off little Mary before guests. She may ask Mary to recite, or to sing. For some reason, Mary hesitates; then her mother, without realizing the damage she is doing, will comment on how timid Mary is.

“When alone, she is a little chatterbox, but when company comes she shuts up like a clam,” the mother will explain.

Such comments, in the presence of the child, will create a timidity consciousness. As Mary grows up she comments on her timidity, wishing she could be comfortable when in the presence of others, but admitting she can’t because she is so timid. Those of us who know anything about the workings of the mind know that every time Mary gives voice or thought to her timidity, she is making it still worse. So, this lady goes through life, missing much enjoyment because of her timidity.

That feeling of insecurity so many people carry through life was not developed when they were adults. Again we must lay the blame at the door of parents who know little or nothing of child psychology.

Little Willy is playing in the back yard and is warned: “You take care of those trousers—the good Lord only knows when you’ll get another pair.” If Willie leaves a crust of bread on his plate, he is told how many starving people there are who would love to have it, and he is further told that the time might come when he will wish he had it.

Willie goes through life never quite feeling secure. He fears doing anything which requires initiative because he thinks it might not turn out well.

I do not mean to imply that children should be reared to be wasteful and careless; but they can be brought up without feeling that poverty is always lurking around the corner.

It has been found that most of those who go through life as failures, had the failure instinct instilled in their minds when they were children.

Many are held back by a sense of inadequacy which they acquire during childhood.

“Get away from that, you’ll break it. You don’t know anything about tools.” The child is always told about the things he can’t do, but is seldom given credit for the things he can do. This is the type of boy who will grow up saying: “I’m not at all handy with tools.” He is not handy with them because he was told, early in life—at a time when he was most impressionable—that he knew nothing about tools, and he believed it.

Illustration after illustration could be given showing us why we are as we are.

In most cases a pattern is fixed in our minds to the effect that we are “this way” or “that way” and from then on we reflect that condition.

You are what you think you are. If your parents were wise enough to implant in your mind that you had the makings of a successful businessman, you would continue to see yourself as such and, in later years, you would reproduce in your affairs the picture you had maintained of yourself.

Have I made myself clear? Do you now understand what is meant by the statement: “You Are What You Think You Are”?

Do you now know that, no matter what you have been up to now, you can be anything you want to be?


How long does it take to change yourself from what you are to what you’d like to be? That is a good question, and the answer will be interesting—and even inspiring.

Your transformation will not be instantaneous. After you gain an awareness that you can do the thing you have wanted to do, then you will begin developing the technique, which will not take long.

If, for example, you yearned to be a writer, but felt you were not “cut out” to be one, you might make an attempt at writing, but the result of your effort would not be good. Every sentence you wrote would reflect your lack of confidence in yourself. But, if you should build an awareness that you are a good writer, you would notice improvement in every page of material you would complete. Ideas would flow to you; you would become expression-conscious and find it easier and easier to locate just the right words to express your thoughts interestingly. The dictionary, encyclopedia, and other reference books would become friends of yours.

In a reasonably short time there would be acceptance checks coming to you from publishers eager to buy your works.

Let us assume you have always envied those in business for themselves. You never tried to get into a business of your own because you were afraid; afraid you lacked the ability to run a business and that you might fail. But, suppose that you had re-educated your Creative Mind so that you now saw yourself as a man who could build a successful business, what would happen? After deciding on the type of business you would enjoy, you would take the necessary steps to establish such a business. And, the success you would attain depends entirely upon the clarity of the mental pictures you have of yourself as businessman. The stronger the impression, the greater will be the success.

Here is a statement I cannot overemphasize! Make sure you are not merely wishing for the change being considered. As you have read in so many of my books, wishing is negative.

When you wish for something it is an indication that you do not expect to get it—otherwise you would not have to wish for it.

The mental state being discussed in this chapter is that of knowing you are a good businessman, you are a good writer, you are a great musician—or anything else you may like to be.

In later chapters detailed instructions will be given for easily—and quickly-changing from the way you are to the way you would like to be while you sleep. You will learn how to make use of your Creative Mind-and its reasoning faculties—in building a new and greater you, while your conscious mind is in abeyance during sleep.


Those of you with young children, please, please be careful of everything you say to them. Whether you know it or not, you are molding the lives of the young ones and their future’s will reflect what you do for them while they are small children.

“You’ll spend your life in prison, or end up in the gas chamber” a mother was heard to say to her son who had done some wrong. Would it be a wonder if such a boy became a delinquent? He was given a reputation to live up to, and the chances are strong that he will do so.

When children are very young, they accept every word of their fathers and mothers as fact. If a parent says to a child: “You’re bad!” the child believes it, and, of course, he proves this statement to be true.

Never refer to a child as being anything except that which you wish him to be. To call him bad, stupid, lazy, timid—or any one of the conditions you wish to avoid—is actually planting seeds in his Creative Mind which will grow and mature.

“I can’t call my child good when he has been bad,” indignantly exclaimed an irate mother. No, this is not necessary, but there are ways of correcting the child without calling him bad.

“Good boys do not do that,” the parent might say. This compares the young one with the good instead of the bad.

“With that fine mind of yours, you can easily develop into a respected leader and not have to work hard all your life,” an intelligent mother counselled her son who was inclined to shirk his studies.

When a women has worked hard all day, it is exasperating to have the children misbehave, and it requires self-control to keep from “blowing her top.” But bear in mind, the effort required to keep them on the right track is nothing to the heartaches which can come, should the children become delinquent.

Having children is God’s greatest blessing, and it is also our greatest responsibility. When a child comes into being, it is like a piece of clay placed in our hands to mold as we wish. What that child will be in twenty years depends entirely on what we put into it while it is a child.

Some parents will blame the neighborhood for the bad habits their children acquire. Often, the fault lies elsewhere.

A family of my acquaintance moved into a questionable neighborhood. This family had a son of twelve, a boy who had been reared to know good from bad, and who was good because he wanted to be good. What effect did the neighborhood have on this boy? It would be better to ask: “What effect did this boy have on the neighborhood?” He organized a neighborhood club and encouraged the boys to become interested in constructive projects.

Remember! It is easier to be a good influence than a bad one. There is every reason in the world for being good, while there are none for being bad.

Knowing what to say to the children is only part of the parents’ obligation to them. They must guard what they say in the presence of their children.

A father complained because his children had no respect for him. It was learned that whenever his wife became angry with him she would call him “worthless,” “a lazy bum,” etc. Wouldn’t it seem natural for the children to lose respect? And, of course, if the husband called his wife names, it would have the same effect upon the children.

Vile language, excessive drinking, fighting and quarrelling, should all be kept from the children, else they will be reflected in your offspring’s behavior.

Making a success of your marriage is proving your leadership in directing one of the greatest institutions on the face of the earth.

The children’s portion of this chapter might seem a digression from the theme, “You Are What You Think You Are,” but it is not.

As I explained earlier, most of the fears, phobias, complexes and inhibitions a person carries throughout life were implanted in his mind when he was a child.

If parents will make a concerted effort to shield their children from negative influences, the adults coming into being will be Healthy, Wealthy and Wise because they see themselves as such.

May I make a suggestion? This chapter is so important to all parents as well as to those expecting to be parents, that you would be rendering a genuine service if you would lend this book, or another copy, to those who could benefit from it. Many more will enjoy happier and more successful lives as a result of your thoughtful generosity.

You are what you think you are. Now that you understand the meaning of this statement, what do you think of yourself?

Do you see yourself as a great leader? a successful businessman? a capable and efficient employee? a good spouse and parent?

Do you see yourself as an author? a painter? a popular lecturer?

Remember! No matter what you thought of yourself prior to starting this chapter, you can change the entire outlook on your life by literally “changing your mind.”

Go to bed each night holding thoughts as to what you will be in the future.

Do not wish you could change, but see yourself as having changed.

How about rereading this chapter before starting the next one? Burn it in your mind that you are what you think you are and that from this moment onward you will have a mighty good opinion of yourself.

Visit Grow Rich While You Sleep for more articles from this book by Ben Sweetland.